In a stunning reversal, the Government of India has ignored all civil society inputs and plans to table a much criticized version of a Bill on transgender and intersex rights in Parliament. A response issued by Sampoorna India, a network of trans and intersex Indians around the globe, is presented here
This article was originally published on the Sampoorna India blog and is re-published here with their permission.
On November 19, 2017, a national newspaper, The Indian Express, carried a front-page report that quotes Social Justice Minister Thawaar Chand Gehlot of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) that they have rejected all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Transgender Bill. Instead, the ministry will be tabling their earlier, unamended version, the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, in the upcoming winter session of Parliament.
The Government of India has failed the trans, intersex, and gender variant citizens in spite of making grand promises. This news is terribly disappointing to say the least, and outrage has been expressed by many trans and intersex activists. The Bill if tabled in its current form, does not uphold the right to self-identify gender, proposes physical screenings by District Screening Committees to be used to certify trans, gender variant, and intersex people as transgender, offers token measures in the name of anti-discrimination, and refuses to recognize the distinct, even though sometimes overlapping, concerns of trans and gender variant individuals from intersex persons.
The Bill also criminalises begging, proposing six months to two years imprisonment with fine. This puts vulnerable trans and intersex women who beg on the streets of India, due to lack of any other livelihood options, at grave risk of further police and State violence. The Bill is simultaneously silent on any alternate livelihood schemes in addition to not addressing the issues of affirmative action in education, employment, and trans and intersex healthcare.
This is a grave violation of the 2014 Indian Supreme Court’s NALSA judgment on trans, gender non-conforming individuals’ and intersex rights and is not in consonance with international precedents either that honour human rights. While many countries have made exemplary strides in trans and intersex rights, example Malta and Argentina, India will be stepping backwards in immeasurable ways, if this Bill is passed. Governments are constituted as a representative of its people, especially of its minority citizens. The State has a special obligation towards those communities that have been historically disenfranchised and continue to be vulnerable till date. Various sections of our communities worked with MSJE over many past months, culminating with the depositions held till the end of last year.
Instead of taking into account our submissions, our very life stories and conditions, and committing to us that an environment for correcting the historical injustices will be undertaken, this government has acted undemocratically, making a mockery of our communities, our efforts at collaboration, as well as the very Standing Committee they appointed.
The Sampoorna Working Group outright rejects the current version of the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016, and will question, resist, and oppose it with any means necessary. All citizens are sovereign persons, and it is not up to any government / State mechanisms to tell us what our gender identity is. It is for us to self-determine. Additionally, the recent Supreme Court judgment on privacy reinforces the autonomy and agency citizens have over their own body. Similarly, it is not up to any government to propose schemes that violate our right to dignity and life. It is the government’s political obligation to consider recommendations, given repeatedly (over many months), by trans, gender variant, and intersex individuals and communities.
We strongly appeal to all concerned citizens to oppose this Bill.
• Stop the Transgender Persons (Protection of Rights) Bill 2016!
• Oppose further victimization of trans and intersex communities and individuals!
• Raise your voices for trans and intersex rights in India!
Sign the campaign here.
Deadline for Indian sign-ups: 5 pm, Monday, November 27, 2017.
Deadline for international sign-ups: 5 pm (IST), Wednesday, November 29, 2017.
For any further questions, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the main photo: A scene from the ‘Kolkata Rainbow Pride Walk 2016’ (photograph is representative in nature). Photo credit: Kaushik Gupta.